The history of rock music began with a deal with the devil. Robert Johnson traded his soul in exchange for becoming the best Blues guitarist. His technique influenced future guitarists, who would seek the darkest, most powerful riffs out there. But who was the first to find them and uncover the notes that would breed heavy metal, the music that plays alongside the pentagram?
To answer that question, put down Metallica’s Black Album and take a look at the past with Iron Butterfly.
During the sixties, psychedelic rock was at its peak, and the sinister pact was momentarily forgotten. But by 1968, psychedelics started to wind down. High consumption of LSD led to greater convulsions that begged for stronger sounds. The music of Cream, The Doors, and Pink Floyd was out there, yet they did not have the strength to go into the darkest of catacombs.
Then a dark energy erupted from Florida to create one of the hardest musical movements: heavy metal. With only one song Iron Butterfly transformed psychedelic rock. The 17-minute long “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” has one of the most famous riffs in all of rock history.
Bass player Lee Dorman claimed, “It doesn’t matter what happens the rest of my life. I know I was part of history, and that song sure was.” The greatness of the song lies in the robust distortion as well as the slower heavier rhythm. The instrumental explosion forever remains in the mind of the listener. Doug Ingle’s theatrical voice at the start and end of the song makes way for the chilling guitar, hellish bass, and sixties’ organ to drive us on the path of a satanic ritual.
According to the legend, the song was originally titled “In the Garden of Eden.” But during recording rehearsals, while the band members where under the effects of LSD, when Bushy asked Ingle for the title of the song from across the room, he heard a mumbled response that he wrote on a piece of paper as In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. After the substance’s effects had worn off Ingle read the scribbles and decided to keep it as a title.
Producer Jim Hilton was late to the recording due to a traffic jam. While they waited, the band did a sound check that engineer Don Casale was quick to record. The test-run was so good that there was no need to record a second time, and it became the album version. The song lasting 17 minutes takes up a whole side of the Homonymous LP which became the first platinum record in music history.
Iron Butterfly influenced several other bands who were also trying to dress rock music in a shroud of darkness. One of them would be Black Sabbath, who three years later would release “Paranoid”, Heavy Metal’s second anthem. Not long after, bands such as Deep Purple and Iron Maiden would also continue the sound that to this day is full of influence from the occult, Satanism, and mysticism to unleash hell on the rock scene.
Translated by María Suárez